Aspiring chef roasts sweet potatoes, inept former self

/ Courtesy of Talya Phelps and The Miscellany News

At the beginning of the semester, I published a food column detailing the wretched gastronomic choices I was making here in Prague after the unfortunate breakage of the stove and oven in my apartment. Dishes of choice included Fruit Medley (actually just Haribo gummies) and Scrambled Eggs à la Microwave. Two months later, I am happy to report that while my stove is still broken, I now have a mini-range and toaster oven, and I have stepped up my culinary skills to the point where I am no longer filled with shame if anyone sees what I’m eating for dinner. In fact, while I was genuinely concerned a couple of months ago that I was suffering from scurvy due to the lack of fruits and greens in my diet, I am now about to share with you a recipe that contains not one but TWO vegetables.

Before you get too excited, let me issue a disclaimer. While I now have two different grocery stores in my rotation and my regular shopping list includes ingredients as diverse and esoteric as oat flakes and dried apricots, I am still a lazy, frugal and frightened little kid at heart, and I refuse to devote the time and funds to buy any measuring cups or spoons beyond the 1/3 cup and the 1/4 cup I found in my apartment. Thus, most of the measurements in this recipe require you to use your own good judgment. If you choose to make this dish, just roll with it. After all, cooking is an art, not a science.

To start, preheat your oven to somewhere between 425° and 450° F. You’ll be roasting two different things that require two different temperatures, so just split the difference. I don’t have a real oven and I don’t understand Celsius, so I just crank it up and trust that everything will work out. Peel your sweet potatoes and chop them into bite-sized cubes, then toss them with a few splashes of olive oil and grind some salt and pepper on those suckers. Spread them out evenly on a baking pan and pop them in the oven. Next, prepare your broccoli, washing and drying it well and chopping it into bite-sized spears. Coat the broccoli with oil, salt and pepper as you did with the potatoes. The latter require 40 minutes to bake while the former needs

only 20, so chill out and take a few minutes to congratulate yourself on all your work thus far. After the potatoes have been in for 20 minutes, remove them from the oven and use a spatula to flip them over so they can cook evenly. Then add your broccoli and shake the pan to even everything out before putting them back in. After another 10 minutes, flip everything once more so your broccoli gets some heat on both sides.

While your vegetables brown to perfection, prepare your salmon to be pan-seared. Use your fingers to rub a generous coating of paprika onto the fish, then add a touch of salt and pepper. Note here that you could use any combination of sauces and spices; consider throwing some garlic powder or turmeric on there as well. I chose paprika because it was sitting pathetically untouched in my cabinet, and it reminds me of the paprika-crusted salmon my parents make at home (which is of course far superior to mine). Over medium heat, warm some olive oil in a saucepan for a few minutes, then slap the salmon in the pan and crank the heat up to high. Depending on the thickness of your fillet, let it sizzle for three to five minutes, then flip it over and cook for two to three more. Anoint the fish with a few squeezes of lemon juice and serve with a generous helping of sweet potatoes and broccoli.

There you have it: a simple meal that takes less than an hour but can still be whipped up to impress visiting family members or friends—or at the very least, give them the illusion that your life isn’t completely in shambles. In fact, it’s a proven rule that as long as your dinner consists of more than one element, you’re doing just fine; if it consists of more than two, such as this recipe, you are #thriving. In all seriousness, while I desperately miss the ease of the Deece and the luxury of my dad’s cheesy egg sandwiches served to me on request when I’m home for break, having to shop for ingredients in a foreign language and cook for myself has upped my confidence and convinced me I might actually survive after graduation. If you wish to thank me for the sense of independence you’ll surely gain when you cook this, I am accepting gifts in the form of teaspoons and tablespoons.

Ingredients

2 sweet potatoes
1 head of broccoli
1 salmon fillet (approx. 4 oz.) Several drizzles of olive oil Salt and pepper to taste
1 large dash of paprika
3 squeezes of lemon

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